The simple answer is that you pay too much to bet on these type of pitchers. But let’s work backwards. First I’ll tell you of the 6 pitchers I consider "elite" (P. Martinez, R Johnson, Maddux, Brown, Wells and Hampton) Martinez costs the most and has the worst record. I don’t mean their personal W-L, but whether the team wins or losses, which is the number you win or lose on.
Next you need to know the team records when these pitchers start: 17-12 (as of 4/30) or a win rate of 58%. This means you should not lay more than –140 to bet these starters. But we know, unless they pitch against each other, you must lay anywhere from –180 to –300.
Why is their record above average, but way below bettor expectations? Bettors expect these pitchers to "carry" the team by themselves. The feeling is that one or two runs are enough to win. But what really happens in these games? First off, the opposition generally puts up their #1 or #2 starter, feeling that if you have a close game, anything can happen. Next you have to look at the bullpen. You can’t assume these pitchers will go 9 innings. Weather, threat of injury, pitch counts and, in the NL, pinch hitters will end the complete game possibility. Boston’s bullpen is the primary reason for Pedro’s 2-3 record. Johnson and Maddux are both at 500, Wells is 3-2. Hampton is 4-1 and Brown is 3-1.
Since baseball is a game played in segments, with different strategies and resources needed in a typical game, it is too simplistic to blindly wager on these pitchers.
Next let’s look at the pitchers I consider slightly below the above mentioned. I have sixteen pitchers on this list, and their teams’ record when they pitch is 59-31. This is equal to 65.5% or about –200. But of course the average you have to lay on them is under –140, and in many cases they are the underdogs. Radke and Milton are a combined 11-1, underdogs about half the time. Schilling, Glavine and Clemens are a combined 13-4.
Is there a message in all this? I believe so. Don’t get caught up in media hype, which leads bettors to believe that certain pitchers can’t lose. Widen your perspective to include pitchers who are almost "elite" but are not perceived that way. They usually face easier opposition, which I believe is the main factor in most victories.
Pedro has been matched against Hentgen, Lopez, Clemens, Wilson, and Radke. When a team has an elite or almost elite pitcher, Pedro is matched up against them. Partly because Arizona has Johnson, look at what Schilling faces : Dreifort, Brown, Villone, Bohanon, and Grilli. Only one elite match-up. When Schilling pitched, Arizona had a very good chance of winning anyway, just because of the mediocre pitching they had to face.
When you look at the odds you must lay on elite pitchers think about this: -220 is the same as a 68.7 win percentage. In the year 2000 no team in the Major Leagues played at a 60% win pace.
What should you do in these situations? Be willing to wait for a favorable match-up. This may mean that you have to lay a bit more, but your win percentage will justify it. Second, try to keep up with above 500 teams who have almost elite pitching and will face a mediocre arm and team.
Hope this helped explain away some sources of baseball betting frustration, and Good Luck!
Art Aronson is a tenured bottom-line professional sports handicapper. He is the best ROI handicapper in the business. He is not your typical handicapper.